Why are electric vehicles catching fire?

GS Paper 3: Developments in Science and Technology.


  • The Union Government has formed an expert team to investigate the recent spate of battery explosions in electric vehicles (EVs).

Reasons for the current surge in demand for electric cars include:

  • Concerns about climate change
  • The price of Li-ion (Lithium-ion) battery technology has dropped.
  • Governments are offering incentives to accelerate the transition, while private enterprise is preparing to enter the market.
  • Vehicle makers, battery manufacturers, and material suppliers compete for market share.


  • As proven recently on Indian roads, rushing the deployment of this complicated technology without adequate controls can lead to an increase in safety events.

What causes these batteries to catch fire?

  • Batteries store energy in a compact box, and if the energy is released uncontrollably, the heat event can be considerable.
  • Battery fires, like all other types of fires, are caused by the convergence of three components of the “fire triangle”: heat, oxygen, and fuel. When a negative event, such as a short circuit, happens in the battery, the internal temperature might rise as the anode and cathode lose their energy through the short.

How can it be avoided?

  • Safety is a necessary and an essential concern that battery and vehicle makers can design for at numerous levels, from battery material selection through cell, pack, and vehicle designs.
  • To prevent fires, the fire triangle must be broken. Battery cathodes are a major source of heat release. Some cathodes, such as those with reduced nickel content or those transitioning to iron phosphate, can improve safety.
  • Tightly regulated manufacturing (such as the addition of a ceramic layer) will prevent unintentional shorts in the cells, hence removing a major source of fires.
  • It is vital to protect the cell with effective thermal control, especially in India where ambient temperatures are high.
  • External penetration must be avoided while using battery packs.

Among the many steps implemented by the Centre and States are:

  • PLI Programme For Auto Sector: The Union Cabinet approved a Rs 26,058 crore production-linked incentive (PLI) scheme in September 2021 this year to promote domestic manufacturing of electric and fuel cell cars and drones in India.
  • FAME II Amendment: The government drastically narrowed the price difference between petrol-powered two-wheelers and electric two-wheelers under the FAME-II (Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Electric Vehicles-II) plan by boosting the subsidy rate for electric two-wheelers.
  • Scrappage Policy: At the Gujarat Investor Summit in August of this year, the government virtually announced the Vehicle Scrappage Policy. The initiative seeks to phase out inefficient and polluting automobiles in an environmentally sustainable manner.
  • Along with the Centre, state governments are going above and above to encourage the speedier adoption of EVs in India. To enhance the penetration and acceptance of battery electric vehicles (BEVs), governments in about 20 Indian states, including Delhi, Gujarat, Goa, Maharashtra, and Rajasthan, have already developed draught or final state-level EV regulations.

Challenges to come:

  • The Indian electric vehicle (EV) market currently has one of the world’s lowest penetration rates.
  • The initial investment is significant, and the reward is unpredictable.
  • Local manufacturing of EV inputs accounts for around 35% of overall input production.
  • In terms of production expenses, the output would be significantly impacted.
  • Uncertain policy environments and a lack of supporting infrastructure are significant impediments.

The following is an urgent requirement:

  • Because batteries account for 50% of EV expenses, the emphasis must move from car subsidies to battery subsidies.
  • A greater emphasis is being placed on rewarding electric two-wheelers because they account for 76 percent of all cars in the country and consume the majority of the gasoline.
  • A widespread network of charging stations is on the horizon in order to attract investment.
  • Workplaces in tech parks, public bus stations, and multiplexes are all viable locations for charging outlets. Some malls in Bangalore feature charging stations in their parking lots.
  • Corporates might invest in charging stations as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility efforts.
  • As India need raw materials to manufacture batteries for electric vehicles, acquiring lithium deposits in Bolivia, Australia, and Chile may become as crucial as acquiring oil fields.


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